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UT ex Kelli Kuehne has type 1 di­a­betes but stays on course in LPGA by lis­ten­ing to her body

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - PAM LE­BLANC

Kelli Kuehne was di­ag­nosed with di­a­betes long be­fore she took up golf­ing. Now the for­mer Uni­ver­sity of Texas All-Amer­i­can makes a liv­ing fir­ing golf balls down the course. In her 11 years on the LPGA tour, she’s recorded 26 top 10 fin­ishes.

Fit­ness is cru­cial to her ca­reer. It’s also crit­i­cal to man­ag­ing her dis­ease.

But like the 25 mil­lion other Amer­i­cans — more than 7 per­cent of our pop­u­la­tion — who have di­a­betes, she has to be care­ful about how and when she ex­er­cises, and how she fu­els those work­outs.

“There’s no rea­son be­ing di­a­betic can stop you from do­ing what you want to do,” Kuehne says. First, some back­ground. Most of the food we eat is bro­ken down into glu­cose, a form of sugar used as en­ergy. The body needs in­sulin to ab­sorb that glu­cose, and lower the blood sugar level. Peo­ple with di­a­betes have high blood sugar be­cause their bod­ies ei­ther don’t make enough in­sulin or their cells don’t re­spond to the in­sulin their body makes.

Reg­u­lar ex­er­cise is one of the best ways to con­trol the dis­ease, says Dr. Elena Arizmendez, pres­i­dent of the board of the Cen­tral Texas chap­ter of the Amer­i­can Di­a­betes As­so­ci­a­tion.

“Ex­er­cise is won­der­ful be­cause it can re­duce your need for blood pres­sure med­i­ca­tion or in­sulin or oral med­i­ca­tions, but you have to be cau­tious,” says Arizmendez, who treats pa­tients at Health South Re­ha­bilita- tion Hos­pi­tal of Austin.

Kuehne, 33, was di­ag­nosed with Type 1 di­a­betes — her body can’t pro­duce in­sulin — at age 10. She was al­ways ac­tive, play­ing sports as a child and golf­ing for UT from 1995 to 1997. To­day she splits her time be­tween Austin and Salt Lake City, and trav­els the coun­try com­pet­ing in golf tour­na­ments.

Dur­ing col­lege and into her pro ca­reer, Kuehne has worked closely with Tina Bonci, co-di­rec­tor of the ath­letic train­ing depart­ment at UT. Bonci also has di­a­betes, and helped Kuehne learn how dif­fer­ent foods af­fect the way she feels on the course. She also learned to feel when her blood sugar was high or low.

‘I don’t use di­a­betes as an ex­cuse or rea­son I’m not suc­cess­ful at some­thing. There def­i­nitely are chal­lenges, but it’s about get­ting ed­u­cated, pro­mot­ing aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing the dis­ease.’

Kelli Kuehne

LPGA golfer

to con­trol the hy­po­glycemia. Even bet­ter, Arizmendez says, learn how ex­er­cise af­fects your blood sugar lev­els so you don’t need to con­sume empty calo­ries.

Lean meats and com­plex car­bo­hy­drates such as whole wheat bread and brown rice make good fuel. Avoid soda and too much fruit juice, un­less you are hy­po­glycemic. “Hy­drate with wa­ter, wa­ter, wa­ter,” Arizmendez says. Af­ter ex­er­cis­ing, eat a lit­tle com­plex car­bo­hy­drate and pro­tein. Oat­meal and a few nuts or a small piece of baked chicken and wild rice are good choices.

“Make a plan,” Arizmendez says. “Don’t try

To stay in shape, Kuehne works out on an el­lip­ti­cal trainer, spins on a sta­tion­ary bi­cy­cle and runs. She also does core-strength­en­ing work. Depend­ing on her play­ing sched­ule, the work­outs last from 30 to 90 min­utes.

Be­fore ex­er­cis­ing, she checks her blood sugar and eats an en­ergy bar (she likes low­carb bars like Pow­erBar’s Nut Nat­u­ral, Pria Bar or Power Crunch Bar). After­ward, she checks her blood sugar again and eats a small meal.

In all, Kuehne tests her blood sugar three to eight times a day. She wears an in­sulin pump with a sub­cu­ta­neous port at her waist that au­to­mat­i­cally gives her in­sulin when she needs it.

“When in doubt, check blood sugar,” Kuehne says.

She’s also con­scious of what she eats. She tries to eat five small meals in­stead of three larger ones. In­stead of drink­ing straight Ga­torade, she mixes it with wa­ter. She avoids white flour, opt­ing in­stead for whole grains, which are ab­sorbed more slowly into the blood­stream. “Get ed­u­cated. The more you know, the more equipped you are to han­dle it,” she says.

Arizmendez, the physi­cian, rec­om­mends con­sult­ing a doc­tor be­fore start­ing any ex­er­cise pro­gram.

For many di­a­bet­ics, the main goal is to im­prove the abil­ity to do daily tasks. Walk­ing is a good place to start, she says. Ease into a new reg­i­men slowly, with a goal of 20 to 30 min­utes of ex­er­cise two or three times a week to get in shape.

For non-di­a­bet­ics, a nor­mal blood sugar level is be­tween 70 and 100. That num­ber is higher in di­a­bet­ics.

As long as your blood sugar is be­low 200, it’s usu­ally OK to ex­er­cise, Arizmendez says. If it’s above that, let it drop be­fore ex­er­cis­ing.

Arizmendez rec­om­mends check­ing blood sugar be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter ex­er­cise. If you don’t feel well at any point, stop and check your blood sugar. If it’s low, some di­a­bet­ics eat a small piece of hard candy or sip juice to be per­fect on day one. If you can’t find time to ex­er­cise, skip the el­e­va­tor and take the stairs. Lit­tle things add up.”

The good news is that your fate is within your con­trol, she says. “All you need is knowl­edge to take care of your­self. It’s up to you.”

That’s a les­son that Kuehne learned long ago.

“I don’t use di­a­betes as an ex­cuse or rea­son I’m not suc­cess­ful at some­thing,” she says. “There def­i­nitely are chal­lenges, but it’s about get­ting ed­u­cated, pro­mot­ing aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing the dis­ease.”

Nick Wass

Like many peo­ple with di­a­betes, Kelli Kuehne plans her ex­er­cise around her blood sugar lev­els. The Longhorn and LPGA player tests her blood be­fore and af­ter she works out.

Jonathan Fer­rey

LPGA golfer Kelli Kuehne wears an in­sulin pump at her waist. To peo­ple who have di­a­betes and want to ex­er­cise, she says: ‘Get ed­u­cated. The more you know, the more equipped you are to han­dle it.’

Robert Laberge

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